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Community feature: Introducing…

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In this popular feature, we take a closer look at the working lives of some of HR Zone’s 18,000 membership. This week, Crispin Garden-Webster, HR Specialist at the Asian Development Bank, shares some of his experiences of working in HR.


What’s your current job role?
I am an HR Specialist with the Asian Development Bank in Manila, Philippines. I am accountable for the leadership development framework in the Bank, including such aspects as talent management and linking the Bank’s strategy to capability issues.

What did you do before this job?
I was Director of Talent Solutions Ltd, an independent consulting practice in my home country New Zealand, focusing on the OD, HR strategy and talent management domain.

Describe your route into HR?
I graduated from University with an Honours degree in Psychology and took a specialist commission in the New Zealand Army as a field psychologist. I worked across a broad range of recruitment/selection and training and development activities. Other work included research, assessment and activity associated with briefing and debriefing peacekeeping operations. From the Army, I then went to the telecommunications industry as an HR development policy advisor and eventually into HR management roles involved with enterprise level projects. I joined the HR Institute of New Zealand and rose to serve at a local leadership level before going on to the executive as one of the National Vice Presidents.

Did you always want to work in HR?
I don’t think I have really thought of it this way. Although my career to date has been largely HR focused, (I should say I don’t much like the term HR) my career aspirations have been focused on being a business person rather than an HR person per se. After 20 years in the community I’m yet to be convinced of the merit in HR being identified as some sort of career or separate discipline. I’ve always thought in terms of people related business issues and I sit pretty much in the business partner part of the spectrum.

What would you say has been the most significant event in your career to date?
Leaving the safety of organisational employment to start my own consulting practice. You learn a whole bunch of imperative stuff when self employed that is inaccessable to you as an employee.

How do you think the role of HR has changed since you began your HR career?
I think there are greater expectations by senior management that HR will contribute on the leadership team.

I also think that there is now a significant stretch between operational/transactional/administrative HR and strategic HR. The effect of this is that we can observe both within an organisation’s HR group and between organisations some quite definable differences in the kinds of people and the kinds of skill sets that are emerging in these two areas. So we now have quite a diverse and heterogeneous industry compared to 20 years ago. At the risk of making a sweeping generalisation, in the 1980s one could bump into any HR or Personnel shop and it would have felt pretty much the same. I don’t think you can say that at all now.

The other obvious thing is that net technologies have changed everything. It is easy to forget what work was like in 1983.

What single thing would improve your working life?
Gee… I’m reminded here of a quote from WB Yeats…”I stop on the stairs, and wonder how many times I could have proved myself in something all others understand”. Many HR people are constantly trying to change and improve the way organisations operate and enhance managers’ capacity to lead their staff. The single thing for me would have to be to leadership both in HR and the wider organisation.

What’s your favourite part of the HR Zone site?
Any Answers – it takes the pulse of what is challenging our community and exemplifies the spirit of collaboration that is critical to the industry. None of us are as smart as all of us.

Have you made contact with any other members?
Yes, through Any Answers I have assisted a couple of people with issues facing them in their work.

Do you have any advice for those looking to embark on a career in HR?
Technical HR skills will not determine your success. The three things that will define your progress and success are:

1. Your ability to proactively manage relationships within the organisation – no matter what anyone says, this business is about engaging managers and staff, telling stories and making things happen around the organisation.

2. Your ability to talk in ‘money words’ about what you are doing (and yes, this is also true in public sector and not for profits), like it or not, it gets people tuned in and leaning forward in a way that your cool idea by itself cannot.

3. Your ability to build networks outside the organisation in the wider HR community. I know from personal experience that one day you will be sitting at your desk not knowing which way to jump on an issue and this network will save you. You will send out an e-mail to a couple or three people and their perspectives will give you courage to act. Get connected, its a biological model, the more connected you are, the more adaptable you are to changes in your environment.


If you’re willing to share your experiences of working in HR to date with other members, we’d like to hear from you – e-mail us to receive a copy of this questionnaire.

Previous ‘Introducing…’ features:

Sandra Walsh, HR Delivers.
Carole Leslie, Director, IT Learning Ltd
Shaun Dunphy, Project and Process Manager, EMEA HR Service Centre for MCI
Debra Artlett, HR Officer, NGJ
Dianne Miles, HR Manager, Rollalong Ltd
Jacqui Mann, HR Manager, Integra NeuroSciences
Isabella Montgomery, Human Resources Officer at Thenew Housing Association
Iain Young, Head of HR for Cofathec Heatsave

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